This week’s running notebook will focus on lessons for beginning runners. Lauren Downie is the Fitness and Nutrition Center Director at Plates: House of Fitness & Nutrition in Waterville, and has worked with people who want to start running.

“If you’re just starting out with fitness, if it’s not something you’ve been doing every day and it’s a new habit, then you’re learning to do it,” Downie said. “It’s like you can’t just wake up tomorrow and be like, ‘I’m gonna be a doctor!'”

With that in mind, Downie tries to educate new runners and alert them to possible obstacles.

“The first thing that really becomes a hurdle is that people get really obsessed about the distance,” Downie said. “Maybe they’re signing up for their first 5K, so they get all bent about needing to be able to run at least three miles. But usually, the most important thing for people is to work on their endurance to start and then you’re going to work on your speed, because speed is going to carry your distance. And speed really comes from strength.”

Downie said when people starting out in running come to her for advice, she tells them to decide “how long am I going to go?” instead of “how far am I going to go?”

“From there, it really just depends on where you’re at for a fitness level,” she said.

Of course, there are about as many fitness levels as there are people. But if someone hasn’t been regularly active for a number of years that tends to take a toll on their body — and not just in the obvious ways.

“The other thing that I tell people is you have to focus on your flexibility,” Downie said. “I know my clients probably hear this way too much, but I’m always like, ‘stretch!’ For the most part, running is really easy sport to start. But you get stuck with sort of the imbalances in your body based on the habits you have.”

As an example, Downie brings up someone who works at a desk job, doesn’t stretch regularly and always sits by crossing their right leg over their left leg. Over time, that makes the right hip tighter and shorter. Combined with the normal wear on the spine from running, that can cause a sore back for a new runner.

“So if you add a hip imbalance — where maybe the tension in your right hip is drawing the right side of your hip forward a little bit more than your left — and then you add the impact of running down the road, those types of things can create injury,” Downie said. “Then you end up with a person who thinks they have a bad back, or they’re like, ‘running hurts my back.’ It’s like, ‘no! Your body’s imbalances in conjunction with the running is creating pain.’ So if people aren’t stretching regularly then they’re not checking in.”

Another step in the education of a new runner is finding a road map.

“Go online and get yourself a good ‘Couch to 5K’ program,” Downie said. “There’s tons of groups that start them all the time on Facebook. Find a program that really makes sense to you. If it seems like they’re starting you out way too fast, then you probably are being started way too fast.”

Plates will be hosting a free running clinic for beginners at 3 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 17. For more information, contact Downie at [email protected]


Looking to run? The Bond Brook 5K Trail Race Series begins Thursday. Registration is $5 and begins at 5:15 p.m., with the race starting at 6 p.m….The Old Hallowell Day 5K is July 19, and you can register here. Last year’s winners were Briar Beede on the men’s side and Jenna Krajewski on the women’s.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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